I'm getting ready to visit a friend and have the opportunity to work with some of her amazing students, so I put together a guide for them I'd like to share here. Many of these ideas represent the wisdom of my teachers, family, friends, and sources of inspiration over the years. Thank you all for helping! Now it's time to "pay it forward" . . . .
How to make the cut, passing on to the next round and into the live audition after pre-screening recordings, or succeeding after graduation, or practicing after1. Write out goals: make a timeline for the following:
2. Just like the above, practice for next year, not just next month or even next year. Be realistic about where you are in your playing – check your ego at the door and listen critically but positively. Record yourself and listen to it!
3. Use tools to help you. Really.
1. Tonal Energy: http://tonalenergy.com/ is an amazing, one-stop-shopping kind of app that combines reference tones, a sophisticated metronome, a tuner on multiple levels, and a recording device. This is a must-own app for iOS.
2. The Tuning CD: http://www.amazon.com/The-Tuning-C-D-A-440/dp/B002COP51Q Great for playing Reichert No. 2, excerpts, and anything else you’re working on – S L O W L Y!
3. Read an inspiring blog on a regular basis for ideas and practicing strategies, such as this one by Dr. Noa Kageyama: http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/
4. Do something to further your career each day. Write a thank you email, listen to a great recording of someone from the past as well as current trends, read Letters to a Young Poet (Rilke), read some of Mozart’s letters, journal your thoughts for five straight and unedited minutes, etc.! Be thankful for the opportunity to make music, connecting with yourself, and connecting with others.
5. Take care of the fundamentals, each day. These basic tools provide our foundation upon which we build artistry. Take care of body use, balance, and coordination during your technique practice. Evaluate your sense of ease vs. tension in muscles during this time. This is money in your playing career bank! Take care of all those little things that are holding you back so that your passion and energy shine through your playing. Listen critically to your rhythm, intonation, vibrato, tone, articulation, and technical coordination. Are they inhibiting your interpretation, sense of pacing, and overall delivery of your piece?
6. Discover your sound. Our tone is like the eyes, which many consider windows to our soul. Create a sound you love, sharing it with the rest of the world. If you don’t know where to begin, listen to ALL kinds of instrumentalists and singers, considering what you love about their sound and what ideas help you find YOURS.
7. Be demanding of yourself, but frame it positively. Self-talk is very powerful….would you “talk” to your student the way you “talk” to yourself in your practice session? That doesn’t mean that everything sounds wonderful, or every passage is “great!” Listen critically, knowing that you are assessing what you are doing, not your character or essential qualities as a flutist or person! I guarantee you will accomplish more and in less time.
8. Surround yourself by inspiring people, events, and activities. Find the strongest players and musicians around, and ask them to play a piece with you. Support live music and touring art exhibitions, see an opera or a ballet, and attend a chamber music program. Learn from the performers, the conductors, the singers, the dancers.
9. Be teachable. Be curious. Be flexible. Be the kind of musician you would like to work with. Our work is never done – which is one of the cool things about music, as there is always more to learn! Although we need to recognize our strengths, we can always learn something, play better, and try something new. Be brave and secure enough to ask questions, wondering how something works, and why something else doesn’t. Think about the kind of second flute you would like to have if playing the most demanding first part, and BE that colleague….be prepared, kind, supportive, sensitive, listening acutely and responding, arriving early = on time, and committed.
10. Look at item No. 1 again. A most noble goal is to make a difference through music. It sounds a bit naïve but it is the truest goal, and one that will continue to nurture our passion and interest in being musicians. Sure – there will be rough and tough times ahead, but knowing you are making a difference will make just that: all the difference!